TikTok Fact Check: Can You Really Use Glycolic Acid Instead of Deodorant? 

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Whenever we’re looking to get smoother, brighter skin, glycolic acid is a go-to in our skincare routine. And now, thanks to TikTok, we’re finding new ways to use the super ingredient. We were already impressed with the results of applying it to dry feet, but now the app is telling us to try it on another area: the underarms. Recently, many creators have been ditching their deodorant for glycolic acid, but does it actually work? And is it safe? We asked a dermatologist to see if this latest trend is worth trying out. 

TikTok Fact Check: Does Glycolic Acid Soothe Dry Feet? We Asked a Podiatrist

Meet the Expert:

First, what is glycolic acid? 

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), which is a chemical exfoliant that’s derived from sugar cane, but can also be found in some plants and fruits. “It is commonly used to help improve skin’s texture and tone, brighten the skin, boost collagen production and treat various conditions like acne, melasma, and hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Libby. “It’s the smallest of the alpha-hydroxy acid acids, which allows it to penetrate deeper into the skin.” 

Can you really use glycolic acid as a deodorant?

Yes, but with some limitations, which we’ll get into. First, the good news: Glycolic acid does have a few major benefits that work well for your underarms.

  • It can improve hyperpigmentation. The antioxidant properties are designed to brighten the area, remove dead skin cells and fade dark spots. 
  • It can reduce odor. The antibacterial properties help reduce your B.O. by exfoliating the area. Dr. Libby also tells us that glycolic acid can lower your pH levels and target odor-causing bacteria, resulting in fresher pits. 
  • It can treat acne. Have pesky bumps from ingrown hairs or shaving? Again, glycolic acid has antibacterial properties to help treat acne and prevent future breakouts. Plus, the exfoliant can clear up clogged pores and smooth the overall texture of your skin. 

What are the downsides to using glycolic acid as a deodorant?

Now here’s the bad news: Glycolic acid won’t reduce sweating. “It will not help reduce sweat production. Sweat production is blocked by aluminum salts, like those found in antiperspirant deodorants,” explains Dr. Libby. Antiperspirants feature sweat-blockers that manage your perspiration, which is a key feature that glycolic acid lacks. 

It’s also important to note that your underarms are one of the most sensitive areas on your body. When you apply glycolic acid, it can lead to irritation, redness, dryness and/or breakouts. There’s also the potential of over-exfoliating, which can do more harm than good to your skin. 

One more thing: Yes, there are many real-life accounts of glycolic acid being a great replacement to deodorant on TikTok. However, there are currently no scientific studies that point to the ingredient being a better (or safer) alternative than your regular deodorant. 

Is there an alternative to glycolic acid?

Absolutely. There are plenty of alternatives to this trend to consider.

  • If you want to combat sweating: Deodorant and antiperspirant are often thought of as the same thing, but they actually serve two different purposes. If your primary concern is managing sweat, antiperspirant might be better for you. If you’re less concerned with sweat and want to keep things smelling fresh, deo is the way to go. And if you’re dealing with excessive sweating and odor, consider consulting a medical professional for prescription treatments. 
  • If you want to minimize odor without deodorant: Dr. Libby recommends benzoyl peroxide to target odor. “It’s an antibacterial ingredient that is commonly found in acne-treating washes and it can help target odor-causing bacteria,” shares Dr. Libby.  
  • If you want to reduce ingrowns and breakouts: There are gentler AHA acids out there (i.e, lactic acid and mandelic acid). On that note, there are deodorants that already include these ingredients like Kosas Chemistry Deodorant
  • If you want to improve hyperpigmentation: Look for ingredients like niacinamide, vitamin C and azelaic acid that can help reduce dark spots and brighten your skin. 
  • If you want a natural option: There are plenty of natural deodorants in the market that are free of toxins. (Psst, we recommend Megababe, Nécessaire and Native.) Search for ingredients with tea tree oil, kaolin clay and shea butter, to name a few.

How should you use glycolic acid as a deodorant? 

If you still want to try the trend, Dr. Libby suggests using a lower concentration of glycolic acid (ten percent or lower) to reduce the risk of irritation and redness. Saturate a cotton pad and gently swipe it onto the underarms. Note: You should apply it after showering and preferably at night, as the acid makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight. 

Can all skin types try this trend? 

In general, glycolic acid works best for normal, combination and oily skin. People with dry or sensitive skin should be cautious or skip this trend entirely. As mentioned, the acid can be harsh and irritating, which can lead to more side effects than benefits. 

Bottom Line: 

Many Tiktokers might claim that glycolic acid is a better alternative to deodorant. But consider the downsides before jumping on the bandwagon. Yes, glycolic acid can act as a deodorant, but it can’t give you all the benefits of one. As for us? We’re going to stick to using it on our faces and bodies for now. 

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...